It’s halfway through the Fall semester and it’s time to get everyone’s heads out the books and into the wonderful landscapes of Botswana! The students travelled 6 hours out the countries capital (Gaborone, just in case you forgot) to the small city of Orapa and village of Serowe for what turned out to be a perfect couple of days!
Here’s what’s in this issue:
It’s not so great to wake up at the crack of dawn and hop into a 6 hour bus ride; even so, the weekend of October 15th had us eager to do it nonetheless. Our students and two volunteers left the University campus and set off to the diamond capital of the country; a small mining town known as Orapa, located in the central district of Botswana, to the infamous Orapa Diamond Mine!
The Orapa Diamond mine is an open pit mine and the largest in the world by area! The mine produces approximately 11million carats of diamond per annum and contributes greatly to Botswana’s overall revenue. The mine has been awarded on several occasions for upholding world class environmental compliances. There is a game park around the mine to ensure the vegetation and landscape and animals are not exhausted as the mining processes occurs, all the same ensuring water and waste management in the area is constantly implemented to preserve the area.
The ride was long, and with everyone anxious to arrive, it was that much more exciting once we finally reached the destination! Each student had to provide their passport in order to receive a permit to enter the town (Orapa is the only town in Botswana with 24 hour surveillance due to the large quantity of diamond produced in the area) as accountability is extremely essential.
Once everyone was through the security gate, the students were taken to Seole lodge where they had dinner and those who weren’t so ready for bed, spent the evening relaxing by the poolside.
At 7 am the following morning, the mine tour begun. The students sat through an in-depth presentation on the mine, the benefits of the mine to Botswana’s economy, and lastly got to learn exactly how the diamonds are retrieved. The students had the privilege of viewing the enormous mining pit, monster trucks, and the actual monitoring process of the diamond transportation within the mine at the general control room. To add to the fun, the students got to put on safety gear which included helmets, safety goggles, gloves, and boots as part of the experience!
Leah Fails rocking protective gear at the Orapa Diamond Mine!
After the thrilling mine tour, the students and volunteers, famished and terribly hot, enjoyed a filling relaxed lunch at Wimpy in Orapa and were off to their next destination!
The students drove 2 hours south to the village of Serowe to Khama Rhino Sanctuary. The Khama Rhino Sanctuary (KRS) is a community based wildlife project, established in 1992 to assist in saving the vanishing rhinoceros, restore an area formerly teeming with wildlife to its previous natural state and provide economic benefits to the local Botswana community through tourism and the sustainable use of natural resources.
The sanctuary provides a prime habitat for white and black rhino as well as over 30 other animal species and more than 230 species of birds.
The students arrived late afternoon and were booked into their dormitories before heading to a delightful dinner. Once the food situation was settled and the tummies were cheerful, everyone embarked on a wonderful night game drive, where they got to see and learn about a number of animals within the sanctuary, including the mighty Rhinos. The fresh air and plethora of wild animals was an absolutely awesome treat.
A successful evening as we spotted several rhinos during our night game drive
Beautiful nocturnal birds we managed to catch a glimpse off during the game drive
Students enjoying the wonderful zebra at Khama Rhino Sanctuary
Leah Fails and Amy Ma enjoying the night game drive at Khama Rhino Sanctuary
The next morning, everyone woke bright and early to blazing hot water, which was absolutely wonderful as the night before the lack of water left everyone craving for a well-deserved shower! A member of the Khama Rhino Sanctuary picked and shuttled everyone to breakfast and soon after, the students were headed to the next location once more.
The students drove a few Kilometers from the Rhino Sanctuary to Khama III Memorial Museum! Sir Seretse Khama, Botswana's first president, was born and raised in Serowe and it was here that the political uproar surrounding his marriage to Ruth Williams reached its head. Serowe’s rich history can be explored at the small Khama III Memorial Museum, located near the centre of the village behind Serowe Hill. Khama III Memorial Museum outlines the history of the Khama family, one of the most important dynasties in Southern Africa. The museum includes the personal effects of Chief Khama III and his descendants as well as various artefacts illustrating Serowe’s history.
We were greeted by the museum tour guide, Scooby, who did a fantastic job reiterating the history of the village of Serowe. He graciously explained the numerous stories surrounding the pieces in the museum, and showed us how different artefacts and instruments were and are used by the inhabitants of Botswana.
"Bob Dlyan... protest songs... it's better than what they feed you in the classroom" – Scooby, at Khama III Memorial Museum
Traditional San Musical Instruments, clothing made from animal skin and jewellery made from ostrich egg shells
After the museum tour we travelled a kilometre away to the Royal Grave Sight were Khama I and his family have been buried. Serowe did not only have stories to share with us but also allowed each and every person to view the set of an international big budget film, A United Kingdom, which is currently being filmed in Serowe and is based on the love story of Botswana’s first president Sir Seretse Khama and Lady Ruth Williams. Scooby, who has been a great centre point for information for the film, was gracious enough to take us to the delightful set, which was definitely a sensational experience.
Viewing a part of the movie set situated next to the Royal Cemetery
In the weeks that followed, our students were so moved, a couple of them returned to Serowe and auditioned to be extras in the movie, turning our tourists into (somewhat) Hollywood stars!
Stephen Suttle, Sarah Hoffer and Jake Budler having a grand time on set of A United Kingdom
Elise Ran, Amanda Liberman, Katharine Jones and Leah Fails looking beautiful on set!
Jake Budler and Katharine Jones on set of A United Kingdom, Absolutely Candid!
Overall our time in Orapa and Serowe was splendid. The students enjoyed viewing Botswana for the beauty it is and hearing about the rich history of, not only the people of Serowe, but the livelihood and strength of Batswana. Till next time, Sala Sentle (Stay Well).